CANAJOHARIE — Cannabis producer E29 Labs presented their plans to build a downtown manufacturing plant to an assembly of dignitaries ranging from state and local legislators, public safety officials, and the local public at the firehouse in the village of Canajoharie Thursday.
Cannabis production got a green light from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature on March 31. It has the potential to generate $350 million in yearly taxable revenue.
“It’s a great opportunity,” John Brust of Delaware Engineering village consultant said. “Main Street is looking for employees it can bring in.”
This proposed production facility laying on 19.6 acres of cultivatable land will be located on the east side of Canajoharie Creek that will be built on the site of the old Beech-Nut facility that once brought in hundreds of jobs.
Today, E29 Labs is intended to rejuvenate the local and regional economy. Rehabilitating the existing Beechnut structure during Phase One will create 125 jobs; during Phase Two, 150 jobs will be created with the new greenhouse facilities; finally, Phase Three will employ a total of 500 trained workers at the height of expansion.
Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith asked about the potential for criminal activity with the cultivation of marijuana located in the center of the village.
Citing their other cannabis facility in Milford, Mass., that did not see any mischief when built, 29 Labs Vice President Michael Dundas said the new plant will have heightened security throughout and that property values would not be affected.
“You will not smell marijuana as you once smelled baby food from Beech-Nut,” Brust reassured the assembly.
Canajoharie Board of Education President Mark Brody asked if E29 Labs would hire local workers.
“We have a local preference in hiring,” Dundas said. “Cannabis is new for everyone, so we will have to train everyone whether local or brought in from somewhere else.”
Former Beech-Nut employee Jay Summerson asked how much capital is being used to build the facility to which Dundas replied $25 million to rehabilitate the Beech-Nut site and build a greenhouse structure over it.
Others asked how much water would be used and if heavy equipment would be used at the new business. Dundas said the water and sewer used would be less than the former Beech-Nut facility once used and that no mechanization would be used to cultivate and produce cannabis.
“Regulated cannabis production is an emerging field that requires manual labor and is averse to mechanization,” Dundas said.
Federal law makes it unlawful to make and sell marijuana, so it was brought up about how to conduct business with federally regulated banks.
Dundas said E29 Labs will not distribute their product to states that have not made it lawful to distribute cannabis and that the trend is for the federal government to step aside from those that do.
He further said that E29 Labs will not be a retailer selling directly to the general public.
“Federal law has the potential to shut us down, but these are changing times and the Department of Justice usually is lenient to state laws,” Dundas said.
He also mentioned that state chartered banks and local credit unions could be utilized for making online and offline banking transactions like deposits and withdrawals for the business.
Speaking on behalf of the company, E29 President Sheldon Roberts said his company will integrate with the surrounding community.
“I look at the streetscape. It has an amazing historic downtown. E29 Labs will be the heart of the community. We moved here because of the beauty of Canajoharie and because the community embraces us,” Roberts said.
Dundas confirmed this by adding this, “We have seen the decline of our manufacturing base over the years. Regulated cannabis can play a role in revitalizing manufacturing in our area,” he said. The new business will have to go through more state and local planning before it is shovel ready with a date of fall 2023 for commencement.